PanAmSat (Intelsat)

PanAmSat Corp. was a satellite service provider headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut USA. The company operated a fleet of communication satellites to support the entertainment industry, news agencies, internet service providers, government agencies and telecommunication companies. PanAmSat was the largest distributor of television signals in the world and the number-one provider of HDTV channels in America. 

In September 1996 PanAmSat was sold to Hughes Electronics, a division of General Motors, in a 3 billion USD cash and stock deal. In 2003 News Corporation acquired the remaining parts of Hughes Electronics (DirecTV, DirecTV Latin America, PanAmSat, Hughes Network Systems) from GM and renamed The DirecTV Group. 

On April 24th, 2004 News Corp. sold PanAmSat Corp. to a consortium of private equity firms in a leveraged buyout including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), Carlyle Group and Providence Equity Partners for 4.3 billion USD. KKR led the 2004 leveraged buyout by purchasing a 44% stake in the company. 

On June 20th, 2006 the private equity owners sold PanAmSat Corp. to its archrival Intelsat for a total of 4.3 billion USD. At the time of its sale, PanAmSat was the world’s leading carrier of TV channels. In combination with Intelsat (which had also gone private under private equity ownership in 2000), the new company, called Intelsat, is the world’s largest commercial satellite company, with over 50 satellites in orbit serving over 220 countries, with nearly 1400 employees.

Company History

The former PanAmSat Corporation founded in 1984 by Reynold (Rene) Anselmo, was a satellite service provider headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. That time PanAmSat operated a fleet of communications satellites used by the entertainment industry, news agencies, Internet service providers, governmental organizations and telecommunication companies. Anselmo got the idea for PanAmSat from Martine Rothblatt, an independent communications lawyer in Washington, D.C., to whom he had turned to for advice regarding difficulties he was encountering in getting reasonably priced satellite transmission of his UHF-TV based Spanish International Network (SIN), with studios on 42nd Street in New York City. Rothblatt had written a business plan entitled PanAmSat for her MBA thesis at UCLA’s Graduate School of Management and was seeking a financial support. Anselmo partnered with Rothblatt on the PanAmSat project, with Anselmo providing financing and Rothblatt filing for approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and lining up an initial satellite from RCA Astro-Electronics and a heavily discounted launch from Arianespace.

PanAmSat Corp. effectively broke the monopoly on international satellite communications that was held by Intelsat, an international treaty-based organization founded and owned by several countries including the United States. PanAmSat, led by Anselmo, successfully lobbied the United States Congress to permit it to operate globally, competing against Intelsat. PanAmSat became famous for full-page advertisements in the Wall Street Journal depicting Spot, the PanAmSat mascot, urinating on politicians’ legs. The company’s motto was “Truth and Technology Will Triumph Over Bullshit and Bureaucracy.”

Rene Anselmo died in 1995 and his wife Mary Anselmo controlled the company for a period of time when PanAmSat was sold to Hughes Electronics, a division of General Motors, in a 3 billion USD cash and stock deal. The satellite operations continued to be under PanAmSat with Hughes being the majority shareholder. In May 1997, Hughes Communication Galaxy merged with PanAmSat, adding 9 more satellites of the Galaxy-series to its fleet. As one of the earliest geostationary satellites, Galaxy-1 was launched on June 28, 1983. The latest, Galaxy-19, was launched on September 9th, 2008.

In 2003, News Corporation purchased Hughes Electronic’s PanAmSat division and on April 24th, 2004 sold PanAmSat to a consortium of private equity firms in a leveraged buyout including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), Carlyle Group and Providence Equity Partners for 4.3 billion USD.

On July 20th, 2005 PanAmSat signed an agreement with Alcatel Spacecom of France (aka Thales Alenia Space) for the acquisition of multiple European orbital slots as well as the powerful satellite, Europe*Star with a footprint over Europe, the Middle-East, Africa and Asia. The new PAS-12 satellite, formerly known as Europe*Star-1, would enable PanAmSat Corp. to provide a broad range of enhanced services to European customers for program distribution, broadcast contribution and enterprise networking.

As part of PanAmSat’s innovative growth strategy, the Company also entered into an agreement with satellite operator SKY Perfect JSAT from Japan to form a joint venture to launch a new Ku-band satellite at 74° W longitude to satisfy the growing demand in the U.S. market. The joint venture, Horizons-2, included a high-powered satellite that would support everything from digital video, high-definition television (HDTV) and IP-based content distribution networks to broadband Internet and satellite news gathering services (SNG).


Satellite Business Systems, (SBS), was founded on December 15th 1975 by IBM, Aetna, COMSAT (and later wholly purchased by IBM and then subsequently sold to MCI), that provided private professional satellite communications through its SBS fleet (SBS-1 to 6) of FSS geosynchronous satellites, and was the first company to do so.

The SBS-1 to 6 satellites were built by Hughes using the HS-376 platform of satellite, with the exception of SBS 6, which used the HS-393 platform.

SBS 1-6 have since reached the end of their useful life and are no longer in service (having been placed in graveyard orbits), SBS-6 was the last SBS satellite in operation at 74° West longitude, it was de-commissioned in July 2007 and replaced by Intelsat Galaxy-17.

In July 1984, Comsat left SBS, and exactly a year later, Satellite Business Systems was sold to MCI. MCI migrated the voice and data traffic of most SBS customers to its terrestrial network. During the sale of SBS to MCI, four satellites (SBS 1-4) were then in orbit.

In 1987, SBS’ fleet was sold off. SBS-1 and 2 were sold to Comsat, SBS-3 remained with MCI, and SBS-4 was sold to IBM’s Satellite Transponder Leasing Corporation (STLC) together with the SBS-5 and 6 satellites, which were then still on the ground.

In April 1990, Hughes Communications Inc (HCI), a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft (who built the satellites) bought STLC from IBM. Sometime later (around 1992) SBS-3 was sold to Comsat that was later bought by Lockheed Martin.

Due to the divestiture of its fleet (to MCI & HCI, and ironically to COMSAT and IBM as well, the former founders of SBS), SBS no longer existed as an entity, with the last satellite left of its fleet, SBS 6 was de-commissioned in July 2007 and last owned by Intelsat.

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